Robert to the Rescue at Hands-On Dinner in Florida

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What do you get when you gather tables full of amateur cooks and ask them to prepare their own dinners with no advance notice of the menu? If you answered chaos, scorched ingredients and plenty of laughs, then you are correct.

That's precisely what happened last night at the Barilla Interactive Dinner during the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival. 200 party-goers at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fla., turned into honorary chefs as they attempted to prepare multi-course meals for one another with little more than a saute pan and wooden spoon. Lucky for them, however, soon they received a wanted dose of culinary guidance in the form of Robert Irvine, who, together with Chef Lorenzo Boni of Barilla, guided guests through each step of the cooking process in the hopes of eliminating major flare-ups and meltdowns.

Chef Boni shared step-by-step tips for making an indulgent pasta with prosecco and caviar, while Robert — in true Restaurant: Impossible form — arrived just when guests needed him most: the tricky entree course. He balanced his no-nonsense commitment to top-quality food with lighthearted how-tos and willing patience to help each table tackle seared swordfish with apple-horseradish sauce and creamy parsnip potatoes.

As guests fumbled with their fish fillets and attempted to loosen too-thick sauces, Robert stopped by to offer individual suggestions. But when there seemed to be simply too many cooks in the room, he took charge, manning the fry pan and salvaging nearly lost seafood, much to the relief of diners. Soon everyone was enjoying a restaurant-worthy meal when they realized what the next course would entail: premade desserts inspired by chocolate-peanut candy bars that required nothing from them except a sweet tooth.

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(Photo courtesy of WorldRedEye.com/ South Beach Wine & Food Festival)
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